This Week – January 16, 2011

The church is a funny place. Not just humorous, but also tragic. It seems the more we try to emulate holiness and goodness, the more our baser instincts rise to the surface.

Comedy often draws upon this tension between what we want to be and what we are, from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Monty Python and the Vicar of Dibbley. But so too does tragedy. In recent years this theme has come powerfully to both stage and screen, often targeting troubled clergy as a telling symptom for all that’s wrong with the church. In the 1990’s the films Mass Appeal and Priest explored the tragic consequences of religion that hides rather than celebrates our true humanity.

Now, this Friday at St. Stephen’s, Radio Nights presents a dramatic reading of the most recent offering in this genre, John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play Doubt: A Parable. This soul-searching drama raises hard questions about religious authority and moral certainty. The 2008 film adaptation won Academy Award nominations for four of its actors, including Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

We are fortunate to have in our midst both the vision and the means to bring such evocative drama to the stage here at St. Stephen’s. Now in its fifth season, Radio Nights is the brainchild of Maureen Jones, voice actor and well-known member of our parish. Her cast of Calgary actors will remind us that religion that masks our humanity with ecclesiastical power and certainty casts a shadow of its own.

 

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